December, A Time for Questions and Reflection About Ooey Gooey Love of Christmas

Most people wax reflective on life and changes around the beginning of the year. Me, I start a month early, in December.

Hitting the month where Christmas becomes overwhelmingly powerful turns me into this weird childish adult. I love Christmas. I won’t deny it. I used to say that I hated it. But that’s because I didn’t have a kid and I had no reason to decorate my house or act all secretive and pretend to believe in Santa.

It feels strange to admit that I love Christmas to anyone, especially anyone who knew me pre-motherhood. I do. But it never fit me before. So I pretended to hate it. I had established this mold of myself inside my head and clung to it unrelentingly, even if it meant that I had to pretend to hate something that I didn’t actually hate.

Pre-Motherhood Me

I’m a huge cynic, but strangely, I’m also a pretty idealistic, and therefore positive person. Yeah, I know it’s confusing. Try being inside my head.

In other words, I expect the worst from everybody else and typically don’t judge others too harshly, because, you know, I didn’t really expect much from them anyway.

I have this T-shirt, it was a gift from my ex-husband years ago, he gave it to me not because I like the band (of course it was a band T-shirt, it was the 90s and we got married in our 20s), and not because I like T-shirts. But because of the tag line on the back.

It says, “It’s not that I think I’m great. It’s just that everyone else sucks.”

sucks

 I’ve kept this T-shirt for years, not out of any sentimental attachment to my ex-husband, but because when he gave it to me, along with a declaration of, “This is just so you,” I felt like, for the first time in my life, someone from the opposite sex just got me. For a long time, I clung to this attitude that this is just who I am mostly because I loved that someone had not only accepted my flaws, but loved me because of them. (Of course, this wasn’t actually a flaw to him. Hence, one of the major problems of being married to him.)

Me on the other hand, I believe that I can do everything, and when I can’t, it bums me out, like majorly. In fact, it bums me out so much, that I often just suffer in silence, afraid to let anyone know I’m suffering or feeling anxious. This part of me, has also forced me to deny the ooey gooey softie parts of myself.

On the outside, I appear strong, unrelenting, casually fine, but the truth is, when I have the appearance of stoicism or casually saying, I’m fine, everything’s great!” That’s when it’s the worst. I’ve been told how strong I am, during my divorce I appeared outwardly like I was taking it all in stride, until that moment when sitting in my manager’s office, I burst into tears telling her about my divorce. Or not telling all my friends that at work I was doing great, but I’d come every night and be so weak from being fine all day that I couldn’t cook, so I just ate chips and salsa for dinner pretty much every night. And that I spent the weekends curled up in bed or on the couch, remote in my hand, cigarette dangling from my lips and turned into a complete zombie.

I write all of this so you can understand that I’m not the type of person who shares myself easily, even when I need it the most. But worse, it’s made me hide some of the fun parts of myself as well.

Except for now, becoming a mother, I’ve shared myself in the most intimate of ways, in ways that I never even knew I was sharing. And it’s becoming a mom that’s made me realize that I’m actually not nearly as cynical as I used to think I was.

Somehow along the path, I was told so many times that I was cynical, tough, gritty, acerbic, along with being witty and funny about it, that I accepted that as the entirety of my personality.

But when it comes to the holidays, I find that while I am those things, I am more.

Becoming a mother has made me embrace the softer spots in myself and it’s allowed me to show them to others. A few years ago, one of my best friends, who also became a mother around the same time I did, watched me coo over one of her babies, and said to me something along the lines of, “It’s just so weird to see you act like that.”

Before I had Annika, I was one of those women who would avoid holding babies.

So, I love Christmas. It makes me all soft and gooey inside. I listen to Christmas music. I watch for Christmas lights. I currently have two wreaths and a Christmas tree in/on my house. And a sign to Santa Claus letting him know he’s the best.

I have a Christmas loving kid and you know what? I think she got it from me.

You're the best Santa.
You’re the best Santa.

 

 

 

Is Biracial the Same as Black?

I’ve had this question roiling around in my head for years. Is being biracial the same thing as being black? (I hope it’s obvious that I understand this is about a mix where there’s at least one part black.)

Every time I bump up against this question, I get nervous. I’m uncomfortable with it, which is why I’ve avoided writing about it for so long.

But I’ve decided that I need to make a stand, for myself, if not for any other reason. And as a white mother to a biracial child, I’m going to say, no. No biracial is not the same as black.

I see this idea posted around the internet and have had multiple conversations (mostly with Toyin) on this topic where black people are generally insistent that it’s the same thing. In other words, they say, biracial means black when it comes to how they may be viewed by a racist culture. And to that I say, sure. Possibly. Probably in many cases.

Is biracial black?
Is biracial black?

For the most part, I have sided with the general consensus in the African American community, agreeing with them about racist acts and arguing for things even when I don’t fully understand them myself. Because I know that as a white person, I don’t get to decide about things that don’t affect me in negative ways.

I have come to the point where I believe that I fully comprehend the amount of privilege that has been bestowed upon me and my life just for the benefit of having white skin. And perhaps, it is that privilege that gives me the ability to speak up about this. Finally. Or maybe it’s that I finally understand the injustice of it all. Ironic, huh? That my understanding of injustice has led me to come back around to this.

So here’s my thoughts on biracial being the same as black. Every time I hear a black person say that, I feel angry. I feel a little betrayed. And I feel shut out of my own daughter’s life.

I know that isn’t the motive. But anyone who understands racism knows that lack of malicious intent is not a good excuse.

So here’s the thing. I get what they mean is that biracial people often have the same experiences as black people who are not biracial. I get that you are lumping biracial people in with the collective of folks who are the recipients of societal mistreatment and stereotypes.

But refusing to acknowledge someone’s choice of self definition or declaring with indignant fervor that “It’s all the same,” belittles and marginalizes all people who choose to self identify as biracial rather than black. In some cases, I read into the statement a “Don’t bother trying to identify with your other side. They won’t accept you.” Or, more often it feels like, “Why do you want to acknowledge them? Stay with us.” Why does it have to be them vs us? Feeding that notion just feeds more racism and I find it completely irrational when minorities perpetuate notions that don’t uplift a future that holds less racism, not more. (Kind of how I feel about gay Republicans. What’s up with that?)

This may sound a little crazy, but even when I read a random internet comment of some black person I don’t even know saying that biracial is the same as black, it leads me to feel marginalized and betrayed in my own child’s life. Just for a second. But when you start to add up the seconds, it starts to feel like a lot.

When my daughter was first born, I worried that as she aged, she would push me aside once she fully embraced the racial construction of American society. At the time, President Obama was just becoming president and I felt a little pained by his insistence at being called black rather than biracial. I wondered how that made his mother and grandparents feel.

Now that I’m five years into motherhood, I realize that part of that was my new motherhood insecurities. But still, it rankles me. It’s also possible that he did it for political reasons. Our own president, the most powerful man in the world, deconstructed by a racist society.

In a recent study, biracial and multiracial people were shown to have felt the need to “pass” as black in many instances to avoid rejection or derision from the black community and often felt just as much racism, if not more, from people of color.

The biracial/multiracial person does have many of the same experiences as the person who defines themselves as black or African American. Out in the world.

But at home, with family members who span all the races and colors of skin, it’s not the same.

Ergo, the biracial person may not experience many of the same issues that black people experience. They will, ultimately, be forced to view the world through the same lens in some instances. But I think that at the biracial and multiracial population grows, we need to allow for broader definitions. Be okay with the idea that some people choose to embrace both sides of their culture. And who knows? Perhaps the worldview can change if we all start seeing things just a little differently.

White Like Me: A Book Review

Reading White Like Me, a memoir and reflection on white privilege, by Tim Wise, an antiracist author and essayist, was the most eye opening experience on race I’ve had in a long time.

In White Like Me Tim Wise details his life’s history through the race lens, noting experiences from his life that led to his work as a white antiracist.

When I first began reading Tim Wise, I was all agape, like, “holy shit, I am so ignorant about race and racism.”

And I feel like I understand racism better than the average white American.

But we are. White people are unbelievably ignorant about race. It’s not our faults. Schools and history books whitewash (pun intended) our education to make Euro-Americans look like heroes and pioneers rather than than invaders and land thieves.

But if we ever want race relations to get better in this country, we have to tell the truth. And that’s what Tim Wise does.

His first book, White Like Me is a memoir of his life with examination of his own racist past, racism in his family, his own white privilege and how he understands that in order to fight racism, we must start with our own minds.


I highly recommend this book, White Like Me, as an introduction to examining your own racial bias and a good primer for your self education on racism.

If you don’t do it, nobody will.

One of the first thing you will learn from White Like Me is this:

Tim Wise teaches workshops on racism and when he begins, he asks people to tell about their first experience with race.

White people, he writes, usually look dumbfounded. Some will try to tell of their first experience with “racial others.”

But he says, the black people, always know the answer.

It began when you were born.

You have race. You have skin color. And it has colored your experience.
The fact that there are no people of color around is not an accident.

“Although white Americans often think we’ve had a few first-hand experiences with race– because most of us are so isolated from people of color in our day-to-day lives– the reality is that this isolation is our experience with race. We are all experiencing race, because from the beginning of our lives we have been living in a racialized society, where the color of our skin means something, even while it remains a matter of biological and genetic irrelevance. Race may be a scientific fiction, but it is a social fact: one that none of us can escape no matter how much or how little we talk about it.”

Buy